I was around seven or eight when Mum actually carried out one of her most heart-stopping threats. It only happened once, and for me once was enough! We had gone to the swimming baths in another part of the city where I lived – this would have been around 1980.
My Mum, my little brother (three years my junior) and myself, as well as some of our neighbours, were on this particular outing. Three families lived next door to us. The houses were quite large. Some were split into flats, but this was a house share with a different family on each floor. Most of the adults were social workers for the local authority. Jenny and her daughter, as well as Felicity and her son, joined us on that fateful day.
After a good swim – or in the case of us children, a lark about in the water – we got dressed and went into the little café area, still glowing and damp from our exertions, our eyesight still a bit fuzzy from the chlorine in the pool, for snacks and drinks from the pool’s vending machines.
My brother and I were fooling around, as was our habit. We generally got on and played really well together – until we didn’t, and it turned into a fight. Mum was watching us to make sure it didn’t turn nasty and gave us several mild admonishments to be ‘careful’.
On this occasion, we didn’t heed her warnings. My brother knocked over someone’s hot chocolate drink on one of the tables. It almost went all over Felicity, but total disaster was avoided – just.
If us boys was playing up when we were out, Mum would often quell our excesses with the rhetorical question: “Do you want me to pull your pants down right here?” She knew the embarrassment factor would usually pour cold water over whatever behaviour was causing her unease.
Implicit in that statement was the promise of a smacked bottom, of course – and just the idea of such a public punishment would make me cringe with embarrassment. We knew the threat was always there, but Mum had never carried it out. Up until now.
At that moment, I made the fatal mistake of swearing at my brother. Mum did not tolerate foul language from her boys. In fact, she had once washed my mouth out with soap for the same offence, which was an awful experience.
This time, there were no threats – in Mum’s eyes, it was already too late. “Come here!” she snapped at me.
I didn’t quite know what she was going to do, but I knew it wouldn’t be good. I probably thought she’d tell me off and make that ‘classic threat’. Instead, and to my absolute horror, she grabbed hold of me and before I knew what was happening, I was being pulled over her knee.
She was actually going to spank me right there! I prayed that she wouldn’t pull my pants down, but as her hand firmly grabbed the hem, I realised that I wouldn’t be afforded even that last shred of dignity. True to her word, she exposed my bare bottom to all and sundry. I was absolutely mortified.
It was bad enough Jenny and Felicity seeing me bare bottomed over my mother’s knee, but their kids and any passers-by could also now see my little white rump being prepared for a spanking.
I tried to put my hands in the way to cover my bottom. Usually, when Mum beat me with me with the belt, this move was intended to protect my sensitive naked flesh from its blows. This time, the manoeuvre was purely aimed at protecting my modesty. I just wanted to bury my head in shame and not even see exactly who was witnessing this degrading spectacle.
Mum easily pushed my little hands out of the way and without further ado, she began smacking me hard. The slaps were brisk and sharp, ringing out across the room like a humiliating call for even more potential witnesses to turn their heads and see what was going on. Although the sting from my mother’s hand was significant, and left me with a very warm, smarting bottom, it wasn’t as painful as the strap. This time, my pride was hurt far more than my buttocks!
After about five sharp slaps, Mum pulled my pants back up and sat me down next to her. My face must have been almost as red as my bottom now undoubtedly was. I was transformed into a contrite little boy, so embarrassed about what had just happened to him that he barely dared lift his eyes to look at anyone else.
As I mentioned, our neighbours were social workers. The fact that they didn’t bat an eyelid at this bare bottom motherly spanking is definitely a sign of different times. There were certainly no repercussions that I was ever aware of.
More than 40 years later, the events of that day are still burned into my memory. As for the experience itself, it taught me that Mum was more than prepared to follow through with that familiar threat. I learned my lesson – and it never needed to be repeated.